Yard and Garden: May 24, 2019

Yard & Garden blog, 2019

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for May 24, 2019. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 2, 2019. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Donnie Engelhardt, Assistant Manager of the Little Blue NRD

1. The first caller of the show has what he suspects is foxtail in his lawn. He has used pre-emergent crabgrass control and it has not helped. How can he control it? He is also having trouble with zoysia grass on the east side of his house where this foxtail is growing. What can he do to improve zoysia?

A. If this is foxtail, crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides should work on it. I would assume that it may be something else if that didn’t work. This could be little barley, which is a winter annual weed that would be seeding now while the foxtail would not be yet. Little barley is often confused with foxtail, especially this time of the year. For more information on little barley, visit this article on Little Barley from Turf.unl.edu

As for the zoysia grass not growing, there could be a lot of issues with this. If it is on the East side of the house, it may not be enough sunlight for zoysia. Since this is a warm season grass, it is very crucial that the grass gets enough light and it is warm enough for best growth. Also, fertilization schedules would be quite different from cool season turf. Zoysia grass should only be fertilized in the summer months. Warm season grasses really only need up to 2 fertilizer applications per year, if any. Fertilize in later May-June and again in July-August. If fertilizing in the spring and fall, this can harm the zoysia grass.

2. A caller wants to plant either a peach tree or a cherry tree. Which will be better and do either of them get cedar-apple rust?

A. Neither peaches nor cherries will get cedar-apple rust. If you are planning on planting just one, for the growing conditions in southeast Nebraska, you would have more luck with a cherry tree. Peaches are not long lived in Nebraska due to our weather conditions. According to John Porter, Nebraska Extension Educator, “Peaches often have cracking due to rapid freezing and thawing. It can be pretty severe when the fluctuations are large and often. This leads to the gummosis and also damage/death of branches.  Its one of the reasons peaches aren’t well suited for Nebraska.” If cherry trees are chosen, tart cherries are best. Bing and other sweet cherry types will not grow in Nebraska.

3. This caller wants to know when he can plant his asparagus?

A. Asparagus is typically planted in the early spring with other spring crops such as broccoli and carrots. However, with the weather as cool as it has been, it would still be fine to plant it this year. Get it in the ground soon and make sure that the soil remains evenly moist in the hot, dry part of the summer.

4. A caller has an established wind break but mowing now is difficult. Can he prune the branches up so he can mow under the tree without damaging it?

A. Trimming dead branches around the bottom of the tree would be fine, don’t go too high or it will not be as effective as a windbreak. If the branches are still alive and full with needles all the way to the ground, it wouldn’t need to be mowed because the turf will die under that condition.

This caller also wondered about using a granule on the ground around trees to control bagworms?

A. The granule chemical controls he is referring to would be those containing imidacloprid. Bagworms are not a listed ‘pest controlled’ on the imidacloprid label so it is not a legal practice to use it on them. It is best to stick with chemicals such as Bt or Tempo for control of bagworms. Spray them when the bags are up to 1/2 inch in length for best control. I would assume that will be a little later this year due to the cooler spring.

5. What are the benefits of letting asparagus seed out?

A. Asparagus is a perennial crop that needs to have the season of growth to build a bigger, stronger plant. All of our plants need time to grow and build sugars for root expansion. Since we cut off all the asparagus through the beginning of the season, we need to allow them to grow through the rest of the summer.

6. Is it too late to plant strawberries or summer bulbs?

A. It is best to plant strawberries in the early spring. They could still be planted yet this year, but some varieties may not produce this year. Planting this late would cause problems getting the plants established, so be sure to mulch them and water them frequently until they are established. June bearing varieties would be past the bloom time and would not produce this year, but you could plant them to get them established so you can have a harvest next year. If planting everbearing this late, they may still produce later this summer. It would be best to cut off early season flowers that may develop to allow the plants to become more established before harvesting later in the summer after the plants are more established. Summer bulbs are best planted after the chance of frost for the year has passed. You would be past that now and still be in good time to get the bulbs into the ground. It will be later before they start to bloom, though.

green-asparagus-pixabay7. A caller wanted to know what type of manure would be best for asparagus fertilization?

A. Cow, chicken, or pig are good manure options for the vegetable garden, asparagus included. Fresh manure should be applied in the fall to allow time for the bacteria in it to break down before harvesting. For food safety guidelines, fresh manure needs to be applied 120 days prior to harvest, which means the fall in Nebraska. If it is composted manure, it would be fine in the spring.

8. This caller has apple trees. Last year the apples turned moldy while they were still on the tree. What would cause this?

A. There are a lot of different types of diseases that can lead to moldy apples. It could be from apple scab, sooty mold, powdery mildew, or black rot. Using an orchard fruit tree spray through the season would help reduce these diseases. Also, be sure to clean up infected fruits and leaves at the end of the season to reduce the incidence of disease from one year to the next.

9. A caller wants to transplant some foot-tall cedars from his pasture. Is it too late or can this still be done now?

A. It is getting quite late in the year to transplant trees. The concern is for when the shift from spring-like weather to summer hot, dry weather will occur. Typically June starts getting very hot and dry and a newly transplanted tree would not have any root system to get water if it gets dry. It might be better now to wait until fall, September or October. If the trees will be moved to a location where they will be watered adequately, it would be ok, but for best results now, it would be advised to wait until cooler temperatures return in the fall.

10. This caller has a lawn that is thin and weeds are starting to take over. When should he reseed this lawn? Would it be better to just kill it all off and start from scratch?

A. At this point in the year, it would be best to wait until the fall to overseed or reseed lawns. The turf will come up but it will likely get too hot and dry for it this summer, which will be here before we know it. It would be best to just overseed and thicken up the grass that is already established rather than kill it all off and start over. Starting from scratch takes a lot of time and it can be quite difficult. It would be easier to already have something covering the ground while you overseed to keep the weeds down. If weeds are a problem, you can use a mesotrione product, often found in Tenacity, at seeding this fall to kill the weeds when you overseed.

11. A caller wants to know if you can prune a magnolia now to reduce growth? Also, can the suckers around the base of the tree be removed now?

A. Yes, the magnolia hasn’t produced flower buds for next year yet, so it would be fine. Suckers can be removed anytime through the season. Suckers are growth that takes energy from the tree and have no real purpose so it would be best to remove those as they grow before they get too big.

12. Can a bee house still be hung outside yet this spring or is it too late to get much activity?

A. Yes, you would still be fine. These solitary bees are still out moving around. For next year, it would be better to have it out in April. For information on building your own solitary bee hotel, visit this NebGuide

13. The last caller of the day has apricot trees that are just for wildlife consumption. These fruits have not yet fully developed but many of them fell to the ground in storms recently. Her dog is now eating those fruits that have fallen. Is that toxic for dogs to eat them?

A. After discussion with a local veterinarian, the pit is the part of the apricot or peach that would be toxic to the dogs. If these are immature apricots, the pit would not be developed and it shouldn’t harm the dogs. That being said, it might be best to clean up these dropped fruits to be safest.

Yard and Garden: April 26, 2019

Yard & Garden blog, 2019

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 26, 2019. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 2, 2019. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Roch Gaussoin, Extension Specialist for UNL Agronomy and Turf

1. The first caller of the show recently applied a Weed-B-Gon product that contained crabgrass control. Now he wants to fertilize, but it is a fertilizer and crabgrass control together. Will it be harmful to put the crabgrass control on twice this spring?

A. That should be fine and you won’t see any injury from applying the crabgrass control twice this spring. You won’t need to apply any additional pesticides for the lawn this year. Next year, it would be better to do a little more planning ahead so you don’t apply the chemical twice so close together. This is just additional pesticides in the environment that are not necessary, so be careful with that in the future.

2. A caller is bringing in topsoil on a new build site. He needs to overseed, but is it getting too late to do that yet this spring?

A. Seeding the lawn will have the best results if done in the fall, but spring can get a good start on a new lawn. The weather will be the problem to lawns seeded too late this year. With the weather as it has been this year, there is likely still a 2-3 week window for overseeding the lawn with fairly good success. It might be a good idea to overseed now and then do another overseeding in the fall to thicken it up. Also, for weed control, it would help to use mesotrione (tenacity) at seeding. There is a starter fertilizer that contains the tenacity to help with start-up of the turf and to keep the weeds down while establishment occurs. It would just help to get some type of cover crop or turf down to reduce the amount of bare soil that weeds can grow into.

3. This caller has henbit. Would it be controlled well with the Tenacity? If so, should he use a stronger dose of the Tenacity because he has tried it with limited success?

A. It is Never a good practice to use pesticides at a higher rate than what is listed on the label. A lot of research went into finding the correct rate for best control of a pest. Henbit is hard to control this time of year, it is best controlled in the fall. It will die as soon as the heat of the summer comes on because it is a winter annual and doesn’t live well in hot weather. Treat in the later fall, October, with a 2,4-D product for best control.

That caller also has a peach tree that just flowered for the first time. It has two 2-inch long cracks on the tree trunk, each on opposite sides. What can be done with this?

A. Unfortunately this tree is not going to live long. There is nothing to do to fix the tree once cracks like this happen. This large of an opening is very damaging to the tree and will not allow the tree to live long. If it is out in the open where it won’t damage anything if it falls, leave it until it dies.

4. A caller has been trying to get a native grass prairie started for a few years now with limited success. He has a mix with Blue Grama, buffalograss, and little bluestem. What can he do to get it to grow better?

A. Don’t give up yet. Be sure to control the weeds with herbicides, 2,4-D won’t harm the grasses but will manage the weeds. After some photos, it shows that there is still some grass in there, but it is very early for these warm-season grasses. Keep mowing to keep the seed heads down for the weeds.

5. Can potatoes still be planted yet this spring?

A. Yes, get the potatoes in soon, and they should be fine yet this year.

What do you do for Pampas grass with a dead center?

A. Dig it up and divide it and replant it. This can still be done this spring.

She has a crabapple that has dead branches in it, can those be cut off now or should they be removed in the fruit tree pruning window of February-March?

A. Remove dead branches anytime of the year that they appear.

6. A caller wants to know when to spray for bagworms?

A. It is weather dependent. Starting in late May, check weekly for the small bags to begin to show up on the trees. When the small bags show up and until they are up to 1/2 inch in length you can spray.

He also wondered when and how to fertilize trees?

A. It really isn’t necessary to fertilize trees in Nebraska. They can get the nutrients they need from the soil naturally.

tree irrigationHow do you water trees that were recently planted?

A. water them one time per week with a slow trickle from the hose for about 20 minutes each time they are watered.

When is the best time to prune cedar trees to shape them?

A. Most anytime would be fine with a cedar tree, but the best time is in the late winter to early spring.

7. This caller has Austrian pines that are turning brown on the tips of the branches with short needles. What is causing this and how can it be controlled?

A. This sounds like tip blight. It can be treated now with a copper fungicide. A second application should be made 7-14 days after the first application.

8. What is the best thing to mulch asparagus with?

A. Grass clippings, straw, hay, or wood chip mulch can all be used to mulch asparagus. It would be best to hand pull weeds and then use preen that is labeled for use in asparagus before applying the mulch. If there is a problem with brome grass, use roundup carefully around the asparagus first as well. To carefully get the glyphosate on the brome and not on the asparagus either paint it on with a foam paint brush or use the “glove of death” which is when you wear a chemical-resistant glove and then put a cloth glove over that. Then, dip a few fingers of the gloved hand into Glyphosate and rub those fingers along the stem and leaves of the bindweed to kill it.

9. A caller has been trying to start seedlings of spruce and fir trees for a few years with limited success. He thinks it may be due to root rot because when he pulls them up the roots look rotten. How can he get the trees to grow?

A. After discussion, it seems that he doesn’t overwater the trees and may in fact not be watering them enough. He also said that he can get the trees to grow in another, more neglected, location. It was suggested that he do a soil test to see what is going on with the soil in this desired location. It might be that there is a hard pan underneath these trees that is impeding water movement through the soil causing the roots to rot.

10. This caller has been trying to get grass started and is having difficulties. He has used an aerator, seeder, lawn roller, and then waters the seed well and it is not coming in very good.

A. It seems his practices are good, so he may try a soil sample to see what the nutrient and pH levels are in his soil.

11. The last caller of the day wanted to know what the difference is between a Sycamore and a London Plane tree?

A. These trees are 2 different species of very similar trees.

 

Fall Lawncare

2012-05-25 12.04.38
Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

There are a lot of activities for us to do in the fall in our lawns to help our plants make it through winter and to improve their growth for next year. I wanted to take time to cover some of those items on your fall lawncare “to do” list.

It is now time to reseed or overseed your lawns for the fall. This is best done in the late summer or early fall, anytime between late August and the end of September. The rule of thumb is that that for each week grasses are seeded before Labor Day, maturation is speeded by two weeks. If you reseed after September 15 you could still be successful, but you increase your risk of dieback on newly emerged young seedlings in the event of an early frost. If you are a homeowner who wants to sod an area of your lawn, you can do that until they can no longer cut it from the fields.

Overseed with the same type of lawn that is already existing or a mix of Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. When starting a new lawn, either of these would be good choices. Avoid mixes that contain annual ryegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky Bluegrass. Make sure that the grass you buy contains less than 0.3 percent weed seed and No noxious weed seeds. If you prefer, you could also plant Buffalograss in your lawn, but this should be done in June and July.

sprinkler-pixabay
Lawn Sprinkler Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons License

When establishing new turf, use frequent, light watering practices to get the seed to germinate. Don’t let the seed dry out and don’t let it get too soggy either. As the grass grows, decrease the frequency of watering, but increase the amount of water applied. Don’t drastically change watering practices from newly seeded to established turf watering practices. Don’t apply any herbicides to newly seeded turf until after mowing 3 times on the new turf.

As for fertilizer applications, the fall fertilization is the most important fertilizer application for a lawn. However, fall fertilization recommendations have changed over the past couple of years. For a lawn, a Labor Day to mid-September application of slow release fertilizer is still recommended. Apply a granule with 50% slow release nitrogen or less. If additional nitrogen fertilizer is required later in the fall, use a product with a quick release nitrogen before mid-to late October. We used to recommend Halloween or later for the second fertilizer application and we thought two applications were necessary. New research is showing us that a second application of nitrogen fertilizer may not even be necessary, but if it is, we should move the timing up to more like Columbus Day rather than the typical Halloween time frame. This information is from Bill Kreuser, Assistant Professor and Turfgrass Extension Specialist from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Mowing is always on our minds this time of year as well. Continue mowing through the fall as long as the grass is growing and needs to be mowed. You don’t want to leave long grass blades through the winter as this can smother the grass and lead to snow mold. Also, be sure to rake up leaves that fall on the lawn through the fall as this can also lead to snow mold. You can mow over the leaves with a mulching blade rather than rake them if you prefer.

 

Yard and Garden: April 1, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for April 1, 2016. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 5, 2016. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Hosts: Daryl Andersen and Kent Thompson from the Little Blue NRD

1. The first caller of the 2016 season has boxelder bugs in their home and need to know how to control them.

A. Boxelder bugs are not harmful to humans and will not populate within our homes. They enter in the fall and will emerge in the spring to leave our homes and go back outdoors. If found indoors, it is best to just vacuum them up or dispose of them in other manners. Barrier sprays around the home will not eliminate the problem, but they can reduce the numbers found in the home. Also, make sure that all cracks and crevices in your home are sealed up and that all screens on windows and doors don’t have any holes in them.

2. This caller has a very sandy lawn, what is the best turf for this area?

A. They may want to do a soil test to let them know for sure what they are dealing with. The best turfgrass selections for this area are Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue. You can either select a mixture of these two turfgrasses or find 100 percent of either of them. These grasses perform the best in our environment. It might be a good idea to add organic matter to the lawn area to help improve the soil. Aerate the lawn first then apply a thin layer of compost and rake or lightly till that into the top layer, then overseed the lawn. Now is a great time to overseed, apply light, frequent watering to keep the seed moist while it is germinating.

3. This caller has an old windbreak. They are looking to replant parts of it with red cedars in a multi-row windbreak. How many trees would they need, what is the spacing for these trees? What kind of preparation should they do to the site prior to planting?

A. The NRCS has specifications on tree spacing based on the species. For eastern red cedar, they recommend 12-15 feet between each tree for spacing. Based on that and the space she has in her windbreak, she can figure out how many trees she should plan to order from the NRD. This fall would be a good time to till up the area to prepare it for the trees to be planted next spring. Kent Thompson suggests preparing the soil for tree planting like they would prepare the area for a garden.

4. This caller has ladybugs in their home and wants to know how to get rid of them and where they are coming from?

A. Ladybugs are a predatory insect, meaning that they feed on other insects, such as aphids. They can be found outdoors on many different plant species based on their food sources. Ladybugs are one of the insects that move indoors during the fall and then leave the house in the spring to go back outdoors, so we often see them in the home in both seasons. They are not harmful to us when they come indoors. If found indoors, it is best to just vacuum them up or dispose of them in other manners. Barrier sprays around the home will not eliminate the problem, but they can reduce the numbers found in the home. Also, make sure that all cracks and crevices in your home are sealed up and that all screens on windows and doors don’t have any holes in them.

Termites
Photo of Termites from UNL Department of Entomology

5. Does wood mulch increase the likelihood of termites in our homes?

A. No, wood chip mulches are great to use for plant health. Termites will not survive in mulch if they are found in the trees being made into mulch due to the mulching process or because they dry out to quickly in mulches. However, it is best to not place mulch in locations where it is touching wood window frames or siding. According to Iowa State University, mulches increase the moisture in the soil which favors termite exploration, but any mulch will increase the moisture in the soil. So you can continue to use wood chip mulches because they are the best mulch for plants.

6. This caller wants to know if there are any regulations on rain barrels in the Fairbury area and if a rain barrel is a good option for watering?

A. There are currently no regulations against the use of a rain barrel in Nebraska. Rain barrels are a great option for watering, however it is recommended that this water not be used on vegetable gardens due to the contaminants in the water from the roof that may get into the plant parts we consume. It is a great way to save our fresh, clean water for other uses and to use rain water for watering the lawn, trees, shrubs, and flowers. Be sure to use the water in a timely fashion so that it doesn’t sit too long and attract mosquitoes, or use a screen over the entrance hole to keep insects out of the water.

7. A caller planted 3-4 feet tall blue spruces last year through the correctly recommended practices of planting a tree. He purchased the trees from a grower in Oregon. He watered as needed but avoided overwatering. The trees were checked for diseases with none found. What caused this death and how can he avoid it when he replants?

A. The sample of the trees showed that these trees suffered from environmental stress, which can be any number of problems. These trees are planted on a new site with no protection from wind and construction type of soil. The trees purchased for replanted should be purchased from a local source. A soil test could be done to see if there is any nutrients that should be added to the soil prior to planting for better health of the trees. Otherwise, this problem with environmental stress is common and hard to understand.

8. A caller has a sewer smell to his water, does he need new pipes?

A. Call the plumber or the city to have them look at it. It may be a situation where new pipes are needed, but we can’t tell for sure.

9. This caller has a problem with wild oats growing in their lawn, what can be done to eliminate this weed?

A. Glyphosate products, such as roundup, would be the only thing approved for use in the lawn. Then he will have to overseed. As long as the wild oats are up and growing now, he could go in and spray them and wait a week then overseed the area to bring grass back in and keep the wild oats out.

2016-04-01 10.52.50
Galls on a tree branch

10. A person brought in a tree with odd, round structures on the branches. What are they and can they be controlled?

A. These are galls. Galls are produced by insects and are generally not harmful to trees. if they get high in populations, like they often do on bur oak trees, they can reduce the vigor and growth of the trees. It is very difficult to effectively treat them with insecticides. Cultural controls, such as cleaning up all debris and pruning out and destroying affected areas would be the best control.

11. This caller has fruit trees that are suckering or producing growth from the base of the trunk where it comes out of the ground. What can they do about these suckers?

A. Suckers can be removed from any tree any time throughout the growing season, and should be removed so they don’t get too large and take too much water and nutrients from the main plant. Don’t spray these or use any stump treatment on them after you cut them off or you can damage or even kill the main plant.

12. A caller has a red oak that is slower to leaf out but by May it is usually leafed out well with large, nicely colored leaves throughout the entire tree. Is this a concern that it is slow to leaf out?

A. If the tree does eventually come out and leaf with full-sized leaves throughout the entire canopy and the leaves have good color, it is not a concern. Some trees are just a little later to leaf out than others to avoid highs and lows of spring weather. As long as the tree does come out by summer with leaves the way they should grow and throughout the canopy, it is in good health.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood
Crabgrass Photo By: Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

13. This caller wanted to know when to fertilize with crabgrass control and when to overseed their lawn?

A. Crabgrass control and overseeding should not be applied at the same time as the crabgrass pre-emergence will also prevent the germination of our turfgrass seed. Overseeding can be done in the month of April, it is better to get it down from April 1-15 but can be done as late as the end of April. Once overseeding is completed, no chemicals should be applied until 3 mowings have been done on the new grass seed. Fertilization should be applied around Arbor Day. Crabgrass control needs to be applied when the soil temperatures have reached 55 degrees Fahrenheit because crabgrass germinates at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. As of April 1, Beatrice soil temperatures were at 47.6 degrees Fahrenheit, so we are still 1-2 weeks away from applying crabgrass control.

14. A caller has a soft water system that was installed and goes through the outside water faucet. Will this hurt plants that are watered by this softened water?

A. This water contains a higher level of sodium after it goes through the softener because the water softener exchanges calcium and magnesium for sodium. This sodium can replace potassium in plants and disrupt the functions in the plants, causing it to die, according to Illinois Extension. So, due to the high sodium content, softened water is not recommended to be used on household plants, lawns, or gardens. It might be a good idea for this caller to try out a rain barrel for watering their lawn and garden areas.

15. The final caller of the day has a pear tree that is 7-8 years old and has very low blooming. What is causing that?

A. Many pear trees need to be cross pollinated from a different species or variety of pear tree to produce fruit. It would be helpful to plant another type of pear tree in your landscape to help pollinate the tree. Also, remember to not spray chemicals on the tree while the tree is in bloom to avoid damaging any pollinator insects.

Spring Lawncare

Spring Lawncare, blog post

April is finally here, which means spring should be bringing in warmer weather. April is a good time to get out and start working in the lawn and garden to prepare our yards. To help ensure that you have the best lawn on the block, here are few tips to improve your lawn this spring.

April is a great time to overseed your lawn. If you had some spots that were flooded out last spring, now is a great time to get some new seed planted. The beginning part of April is best for seeding lawns, but it can be done until the end of the month. Frequent, light irrigation is necessary to keep newly seeded lawns moist. It may be necessary to water twice a day to keep it from drying out and dying. Straw mulch can be applied to keep the seedbed moist, but it is not necessary and can bring problems with weed seed that is often a contaminant of straw. Do not apply any pesticides to newly seeded lawn until you have completed 2-3 mowings. Also, do not try to overseed right before or right after applying crabgrass preventer as this chemical will prevent the germination of your desired grasses as well.

We often face difficulties with weeds in our lawns. The key to weed management is to keep your lawn healthy to avoid weed infestations and to identify the weed before chemical controls are used. Many of our herbicides are specific to either a grass weed or a broadleaf weed and won’t work on the other weed type. Also, you need to know the weed to know the lifecycle for when the best time is to manage that weed with a chemical. As I stated in my previous news column, henbit is a winter annual and should only be chemically controlled in the lawn in the fall, the spring is too late.

crabgrass, Joseph Berger, Bugwood
Crabgrass Photo By: Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

Crabgrass pre-emergent herbicides need to be applied before crabgrass germinates, which is when the soil temperature is 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. This typically occurs toward the end of April. Applying this chemical too soon may cause the chemical to stop working earlier in the season when crabgrass may still be germinating. In this case an additional application may be necessary later in the spring, so it is best to wait until the correct time to only have to apply this one time per season. Broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions, clover, and ground ivy should be controlled in the fall for best control but can be managed in the spring with 2,4-D products.

Fertilizing turf can be done up to 4 times per growing season. Apply fertilizers at a rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet for each application. A good trick for remembering when to apply fertilizers is to fertilize with the holidays: Arbor Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween.

Mower Collage

We are now getting to the time of year when we will have to start mowing our lawns. Prepare your lawn mower for the season before you start mowing. Start by sharpening the blades. Dull mowing blades can cause tearing to occur on the grass blades rather than a smooth cut. These tears can lead to more insect and disease problems. Change the oil in your lawn mower, if you didn’t do that in the fall. Check your spark plugs and tire pressure. Finally, make sure you clean under the deck for any grass that may still be stuck under there from last season. You can start mowing as soon as the grass starts growing. Remember to mow at a height of 2.5-3.5 inches and only cut off 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow.

Correct Timing for Spring Yardwork

Lilac- Glenn Kraeck, Flickr
Flickr image courtesy of Glenn Kraeck per CC license

It has been exceptionally warm so far this year. We haven’t had a lot of snow events yet and the weather has already hit the 70’s on multiple occasions. However, it is still too early to go out and do too much to your gardens, we could still face rather cold temperatures and possibly even snowy conditions yet this spring. So, I wanted to take the time to go over when the best time for garden preparations should begin.

2014-03-04 11.18.22Vegetable gardens are always a favorite of mine in the spring and summer for delicious homegrown crops. Potatoes and Peas can be planted in late March to early April. Other cool season crops should be planted in early to mid-April. We can start seeds for transplants for summer crops at this time. Begin seedlings 10 weeks prior to transplanting for slow growing plants such as broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage. Allow for 6-7 weeks of growth for new seedlings prior to transplanting for plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. And you only need to plant those fast growing species such as cucumbers, squash, and the melons 2-3 weeks in advance of transplanting. Remember, transplanting should occur no sooner than mother’s day, which is May 8th this year.

Turf can be overseeded or reseeded from the end of March through the beginning of April. We still need to wait until then to overseed, because with this early warm weather it may cause some to germinate and cold night temperatures could kill those young plants. Be sure that you are buying certified weed free seed. The best grass choices for eastern Nebraska are either 100% tall fescue, 90% tall fescue with 10% Kentucky bluegrass, 100% Kentucky bluegrass, or 100% buffalograss as a warm season grass choice. Mixes are fine to use in Nebraska, but you want to make sure it is a good mix. If you purchase a mix, avoid any that contain annual bluegrass, ‘Linn’ perennial ryegrass, or ‘Kenblue’ Kentucky bluegrass. Crabgrass preventer should not be applied until later April when the soil temperatures have warmed up. Don’t use crabgrass preventer on newly seeded lawns until you have mowed 3 times on the newly seeded grass.

Wait to uncover your perennials this spring. The mulch applied around the perennials in the winter is not meant to keep the plants warm, it is meant to keep the plants at a uniform temperature throughout the growing season. If you leave the mulch on in these warm days, this will help to keep your plants cold, and therefore, help them maintain their dormancy. The same goes with roses that were placed under rose cones in the fall. Leave those cones on as long as you can.

apples-A. Henneman flickr
Flickr image courtesy of Alice Henneman per CC license

We may have plants that break dormancy early with all of these warm temperatures. This may cause some dieback on the branches or stems and most likely these plants will survive. The bigger problem will be with plants that fruit such as strawberries or fruit trees. If these plants break dormancy and start to bud their buds may be damaged by a freeze event and then the plants will not produce fruit. Fruit trees cannot be discouraged from this occurrence, which is why we often have problems with low or no fruit on peaches and apricots with a late freeze event.

 

Fall Yard and Garden Issues

Fall will be here before we know it. Take the time to read this to help you through all of your horticulture and insect issues during the fall months.

Bare lawn in need of overseeding.
Bare lawn in need of overseeding.

For fall lawncare, September is a good month for overseeding, fertilizing, and aerating your lawn. If you have bare spots from the floods or have a thin lawn, you can overseed in the month of September, before the 15th will have better establishment before winter, Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue are the best choices for seed in Nebraska. Remember to fertilize with the holidays, and Labor Day and Halloween are coming up for our final two applications for this year. If your lawn has a deep thatch layer, over 1 inch, you may need to aerate your lawn, fall is a good time for aeration as well.

Weeds in a lawn

Weed control is better in the fall. Many of our perennial weeds and winter annuals will get much better control if they are treated in the fall. This year has been a great growing season for many of our lawn weeds, especially clover. Perennial weeds such as Dandelions, creeping Charlie or ground ivy, and clover, are best controlled in the fall with either 2,4-D or Triclopyr products. Remember to apply these chemicals on days when the temperatures are predicted to be at or below 80 degrees for 72 hours. This is the time of the year when these weeds are taking their nutrients back into their roots for next season’s growth, so they will take the herbicide with them to get a better kill. The winter annuals such as Henbit are just beginning their growth in the fall so it is best to treat them now rather than in the spring when they are almost done with their growing season.

It is finally getting close to the time of the year when we can begin cutting back our perennial plants. Once these plants die back in the fall, when their leaves turn brown, we can cut them back for the year. Peonies and Iris are two plants that should be cut back in the fall to avoid diseases spreading from this season to next since these plants tend to get leaf spot diseases annually. When you go to remove the spent leaves, you can also divide these plants and transplant them if you need them in a different location. Avoid pruning roses and butterfly bushes until the early spring to avoid problems with moisture getting into the hollow stems of these plants. If you have a shrub that blooms early in the spring, such as lilac, forsythia, weigela, some spireas, and some hydrangeas, wait to cut those back until after bloom next spring to avoid removing flower buds that are already on the shrub for next year.

Center photo by S. Cochran, Lancaster County Extension
Center photo by S. Cochran, Lancaster County Extension

Watch for fall invading insects in your home in the fall. This is the time of year when many insects will begin to invade our homes. As it begins to get cooler outside, insects move into our homes to stay warm. Many of the insects we see in the fall inside our homes include boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, stinkbugs, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, and ants. These insects are mostly just a nuisance to us when they come into our homes. The best control for these would be to seal up all cracks where they can enter our homes and to use the insect barrier sprays around the home, especially around doors and windows.